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Bright Smoke, Cold Fire


Clearly not what I expected, and quite underwhelming. After two great books from this author, this was meh. I didn’t have that melodramatic atmosphere which I lawyer experienced with her books, and the romance itself was quite intriguing. 

I do admit that it is more interesting with how she took Romeo and Juliet and spinned together such a tale of necromancers, clans fighting for power in the only living city in the world. 

To me, Runajo, had been a rather interesting character. Juliet barely had any personality in my opnion, but I could see why she loved Romeo above all else. Let’s face it, he’s the only decent guy among her many kinsmen, and they are not the brightest either. 

Paris, he was okay. Though he not being in love with Juliet was what I got here, and well I understand too. It is much less of the tragic romance, but more of the dark magic and reality it is. Runajo, had been what made me interested, she had been what really carried the story really.

Romeo, and Paris didn’t interest me as much, but Runajo had the most development, even more than Juliet, who frankly is a flat character and shape little nuances. Runajo despite trying to make herself ruthless, has a heart deep beneath which interested me quite a not in her character. And her chapters, had been the most exciting for me. 

Although, I do admit that it was quite a letdown on my part. But there are still points where I believe is a step away from her usual melodrama and romance, and creating something else here which do have much for improvement but also some enjoyable characters and scenes. 

So, I would think that you should read this with a fresh mind. I was disappointed but also liked some characters at the same time, and for once this wouldn’t end like most, with a sequel to come, which I would still look forward to. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Barefoot On The Wind 


A retelling that I recommend. In fact, almost any retelling I would recommend from this author. She makes it a completely different story but still decent, and one that you will enjoy with her careful research, her descriptions and her characters.

Hana, one again I could feel her struggle. She is still blaming herself for her father’s death and did everything for it, such as taking on all the roles regardless of gender. Which to me is a sign of strength, you don’t find her complaining or even loathing her father for it. She is just doing all she can for the family, which to me felt connectable with the traditions and expectations. 

As for Itsuki, I do admit that this was actually someone that managed to find his own mistakes. Even if he didn’t do anything to prevent it, and really reflected about his own deeds. And he’s a male character that had done wrong and admitted it, and at least saw where he went wrong in. Also he shared some points with the original beast in beauty and the beast. Both were arrogant and felt entitled. 

As for the yuki-onna. I do like the curse that she laid upon them, her anger all she felt was realistic to me. And I might be thinking about the snow queen, seeing as how they are basically equivalents though I wonder whether the author might head in that direction next. After all, all her retellings have been on point and taking a twist with the actual characters. Hana is not a beauty, but she is a strong and self-reliant young woman although she did not read as much as Belle did. 

As for the retelling, the villagers are the servants of the house, all cursed upon with them just that they tend to be more cowardly. And the curse itself, laid by Oyuki can be quite similar to what the Beast he himself had done. Although the snow maiden and a witch is quite far apart. 

But I did enjoy the slow pace as it allowed me to grasp on Hana, and the story being a lot more on her development since she runs most of the changes. What happens later with her and the villagers have to be one of the best quotes in the book so far yet. As well as with Oyuki. And her goal to save her father from her own family. That had been what she had done as well. 

As for the ending, it is perfect. Tied up all loose holes and left everything as it is. But not without a nice ending that I enjoyed. 

Overall, I recommend this to those who have been fascinated with Japanese culture and always have been frustrated with the inaccuracies of certain books. And also, those who love retellings and want to see a feminist character that doesn’t whine to you about her life. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

2

The Steep And Thorny Way 


I really liked this books, for its themes which are handled well. To the mystery itself which is rather difficult to solve, and has a really important part in conveying the theme. 

Having a biracial character here, and her narration was perfect. Simplistic but not too difficult and all the while. 

The character was absolutely well done. I really could see that this was a strong character, she goes through a lot of development here. And decides to fight it through ways that she can, by choosing to change the situation rather than just getting back. 

And her father’s death, which was something suspicious and itself had been interesting with a lot of turns. And I’m still surpised how the author managed to intertwine so much of actual history into it. The whole setting may be horrible, and bleak, but it’s a great portrayal of it that spares no reader, and most importantly makes us thankful for the times we live in now. 

Especially knowing that you can be sterilized just because of your skin colour or your orientation. 

The entire situation was the best thing about the book and how it can cause a man’s death. It is a bleak future, but Hanalee still believes she can change it. And I really admire her for that, and all the more makes her a relatable character when she makes mistakes and assumed her father’s killer to what is reality. I accepted it, really and when everything came crashing down, I hoped that she would come out alive in this. 

As for the other characters many of them stood out. There is almost no romance here. Even the main male character isn’t interested in dating Hanalee, he’s more likely to date a guy instead. And I like the story for being about a biracial girl who wants to know the truth of her father’s death, only to find a really really insane cult against her, and one who wants to “purify” Oregon. 

I really really enjoyed this book, for it focusing more on the difficult issues rather than just romance. And it’s something you should pick up for a realistic portrayal of America in 1920s. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 

3

The Star Touched Queen 


I have been pretty ambivalent about this book, since the earlier part I did sort of enjoy despite having some pretty glaring issues with it. 

Particularly about feminity here, where the main character happens to be the only good female character around. And the rest are either dead or evil. And her best friend just so happens to be a female …horse. Yes, horse. I have no idea why can’t there be another character who is strong apart from her. 

As for the plot, I was mostly bored by it. And that at the front with Maya’s utter distrust of Amar had been completely believable, but then it becomes rather ridiculous in fact. Their relationship intially had started out well before it became rather shaky, where it was still believable until it came out of an utter stranger and she believed him over the guy she spent more days with him. Which was still ridiculous. 

Afterwords, I had been more or less bored as well. Seeing Maya trying to figure out her way and eventually having almost no goal and even drive for most of the book. The entire world between them although fascinating but Maya has almost no agency at all, and really lacks any depth beneath that. 

Same for Amar, he barely almost had any depth at all apart from being mysterious. And really lacked in any way possible to charming, choosing to give an offer for o girl he just met to be his queen and asking for her trust doesn’t strike me as such. And he just takes her like that. 

So, I’m more or less unable to rate it quite high, since it has some issues that is evident here. Overall I can’t really recommend this since it’s a rather bland and dull read. 
Rating: 2 out of 5 

1

Winter


This was one massive book, but still didn’t take me a long time to read it. If there’s one thing I really enjoy about this series is that it’s really enjoyable. Though this book lacked a little bit of the comedy factor which made me laugh out loud many times previously. 

But with the newest addition which is Winter, who is no doubt a rather interesting character. She chose to not use her abilities which is the main reason for her insanity, but I still liked her. But she never really felt emotionally unstable or even having really strange hallucinations often to me, just some mutterings. Really, Levana is psychotic for trying to kill her when she could have been far worse. 

As for the fairytale similarities here is rather alike, with enough to remind me that this is a retelling yet more than that. With the plot still having characters which mirror such as the way Levana chose to have Selene die, the same way she became disfigured. 

And ending wise, I enjoyed it really really enjoyed it. Personally, my favourite had been Thorne’s own way of trying to be a decent man to actually try to earn Cress which is the best way to go. He doesn’t seek redemption but rather earns it, and proves himself. That is really a good example of a guy. 

The rest didn’t really stick with me nearly as much. Perhaps it’s just that with Kai and Cinder, they seem kinda perfect already, there isn’t really much of anything left. But I did really like the part about her wanting to dissolve the monarchy, seems that she has the ability to guess that eventually this would happen again. 

As for the plot here, at the cost of witty moments there were far more serious ones where their lives were truly in danger. Where they could have died and everything. I really cared about them and the tension was incredibly high despite it all. But there were many moments where I were more or less distanced from the book since this is by far the longest book I have picked up. 

As for their relationship, they have one hell of one. It was really a good kind of friendship, having trust as well as differences yet none were ever cast aside. That is a good friendship and all of them really contributed and none were just there to make the numbers, and by far I really really liked this kind of sisterhood which I rarely see anymore. 

Overall, this was a satisfying conclusion to the entire series. And the length was far longer than I thought and took me three times the time to finish it, but nonetheless I still enjoyed it and found it well done. The only thing that I felt it lacked was scenes which made me laugh which I think was more or less important to try and really take me in, but still enjoyable nonetheless. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Fairest 


You know what, I loved Levana’s story. She isn’t a villain from the start but I could feel her presence from the beginning. About her as a person, and how everything changed from her. As well as what made her this insecure and a full villain in the end. And she was believable, from the beginning as rather manipulative which I do think almost all monarchs need a little bit of. Otherwise, well it all comes down to luck. 

Frankly, she’s quite sad once I see deeper. All she wanted was to be loved, but she moved on quickly from her own thinking about it. Showing much about her personality instead of a full melodrama, and in a sense forced the one she loved to marry her. 

As for Channary, I doubt she was even an angel. Here we have her making an antidote to her father’s illness, but I think it may have been for biological warfare itself. And she contributed a lot to Levana’s own insecurities about never revealing a face, given how Levana actually looked, can’t say I’m surprised she was insecure about it. And as a queen, she seemed to play around with men quite a lot, her daughter doesn’t even seem to know who is her father. But her character was quite interesting nonetheless, how she was important to Levana and wasn’t any kind of angel either. 

As for Evret, the husband of Levana, I don’t really know what to think of him. Other than he’s really really scared of what Levana might do, even though he may have not loved her at the time, but he was important nonetheless to how Levana was. And bit by bit, I really saw her change and become worse as a person. To really doing all her plans, and just trying to improve her country. For once, I enjoyed this where the villain isn’t just some black hole of immorality but rather human and having mistakes and even redeemable. I do reconmend this to those who really want a glimpse into her past and see what made her who she is. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 

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The Swan Kingdom 


Not a really bad book. I did find it easy to read it to its end. Although there are some issues that I think is problematic but not much. 

Mostly it’s about Alexandria being not beautiful, she is just plain. Although I like characters that are as plain as they are beautiful, she made too much out of it. It feels as though the end of the world was for her when she was plain. Maybe is she has some impairment or something that did make her ugly. She’s not ugly but not pretty either. And really, she holds herself too low. 

But even then, I did like her as she changed slowly. And at the end, I did prefer her actions to be about saving her brothers rather than gawking at the love interest. 

The book is slightly lesser on the romance. But not a horrible retelling really, even though this hasn’t been something I read very often for fairytale retelling. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. 

As for the characters, they are not bad nothing really wrong with them. Maybe it’s a little lacking in more depth, for many of them. Even Gabriel is still rather flat in characterization as well as her brothers. Like there is no difference between them. And also, maybe scenes when they banter like a family I didn’t feel that they were close honestly.  

The writing here is what really makes it better given how the writing was, slow and deep with the descriptions here are vivid and rich. Although I do want a little more, a better characterization of the characters. But it’s mostly my own personal tastes, and that maybe a little more of the meaning beneath it. 

But other than that, I did rather like this, although it’s still a little lacking. But if you want a retelling that is still a standalone, I would suggest picking it up.  

Rating: 3 out of 5